The world number one Test side, India, are desperate for victory at Lord’s to level the series against a buoyant England side.
England came out on top at Edgbaston but only just – by 31 runs – in what was a thriller of a match where the teams wrestled back and forth for the advantage before the hosts finally got the better of Virat Kohli’s men.
There were plenty of positives in both camps – Kohli’s 149 and 51, Ravichandran Ashwin’s seven wickets in the Test and Ishant Sharma’s five-wicket haul in the second innings for India; for England, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow scored half-centuries, Sam Curran’s produced a brilliant Man of the Match performance (87 runs and five wickets), not to mention Ben Stokes’ match-winning spell on the fourth day.
So, while England has the momentum and the advantage of playing at home, they will be aware that India ran them close in Birmingham and are capable of doing the same at Lord’s, a venue where they won their last encounter, in 2014.
All isn’t rosy for either side, though. A low-scoring match at Edgbaston meant batsmen on both sides had to counter some quality swing bowling, and ― barring Kohli, Root, Bairstow and Curran ― not many could play a knock of significance. The most important of these, perhaps, was Curran’s match-turning 65-ball 63 in the second innings, after coming in with England in a tough spot at 86-6 (effectively 100-7, taking the first-innings lead into account).
England finished on 180 to set India 194 for the win – a chaseable target by all means – but the visiting batsmen faltered against some high-quality swing bowling and were bowled out for 162. The next highest score after Kohli’s 51 was Hardik Pandya’s 31.
England outmatched India, but not by much as ― barring Root’s 80 and Bairstow’s 70 ― the batsmen were found wanting in the first innings. Dawid Malan has since faced the consequences of a string of low scores ― eight, 20, six, 28 and seven ― in his last five innings (along with some lapses in the slips) and has lost his place in the team. Replacing him is the 20-year-old Ollie Pope, who will jump straight into the batting order at number four.
An improvement on the batting front will be on both sides’ agenda for this game. The likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane – the core of India’s batting, all of whom made low scores in Edgbaston – will have to hit form sooner rather than later, as must Alastair Cook (who was dismissed off identical deliveries by Ashwin in both innings) and Jos Buttler.
England are also without Stokes for this game as the all-rounder has a court hearing to attend. Chris Woakes was named as his replacement, although Moeen Ali could well get the nod in the hot and dry conditions at Lord’s. That decision will be confirmed at the toss.
— Indiacom (@indiacom) August 8, 2018
India could ponder giving a break to one of the fast bowlers by bringing in either Ravindra Jadeja or Kuldeep Yadav in order to field a two-prong spin attack with Ashwin. Jasprit Bumrah, who excelled in his debut Test series in South Africa, was also in contention but bowling coach Bharat Arun has ruled out his participation in the Lord’s Test.
But bowling isn’t much of a worry for India; batting is. Kohli scored 200 of the 436 runs that India made in the match ― where they lost half their side by 100 in both innings. While Kohli rallied the lower order along in the first innings to get close to England’s first-innings total, he might not be able to do so on a regular basis. The other batsmen have to come good.
Curran (England): The all-rounder impressed one and all in just his second Test by bagging the Man of the Match award. With his ability to swing the ball prodigiously and score runs lower down the order, the youngster is an asset to this England side and may fill the Stokes-sized gap.
Kohli (India): India will be hoping that their ‘Captain Courageous’ comes good once again, after heroically taking them within touching distance of a victory – 200 runs in the game have also propelled his average of 13.40 in England, and he will look to build on that.
London is expected to be hot and dry owing to the current heat wave in England. However, it is expected to be cool on the first day of the game and, ironically, there are chances of some rain over the scheduled five days, which suggests that the team who wins the toss may elect to field first. The pitch is expected to assist both seam and spin, as it did in Edgbaston, but is likely to be spinner-friendly, so India may well look to take advantage of these conditions with their selections.
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Alastair Cook, Sam Curran, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Jamie Porter
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur
Photo: Philip Brown/Getty Images